JUNGLEPUSSY AND EARL SWEATSHIRT PROVIDE A CATHARTIC NIGHT OF HIP-HOP AT SKIDMORE COLLEGE
On Friday, Oct. 7, Skidmore College welcomed renowned rapper and producer, Earl Sweatshirt. Joining him as an opener was up and coming New York City based rapper Junglepussy. The concert was held in the Williamson Sports Center conveniently located right on campus and its crowd consisted of hundreds of excited students from the small, tight-knit college. The venue also contained several stern and intimidating security staff, who were scattered around the venue scanning the crowd for unruly student behavior.
The show started when Junglepussy took the stage and presented the audience with bold, authentic, and at times hysterical explorations of female sexuality, body positivity, scathing attacks on toxic masculinity and patriarchal oppression, and much more. Her signature wit and confidence flourished in a live setting and impressed attendees who were previously unfamiliar with her music. Towards the end of her set, she presented a large, cardboard sign that read “This Pussy Doesn’t Pop for You” which was based off of the track “Pop for You” from her critically acclaimed 2015 album Pregnant with Success. Dan Warhol, a Junior at UAlbany, was particularly impressed with Junglepussy’s performance saying that “it was nice to hear comments from a female perspective” in the often male-dominated, and more-than-occasionally misogynistic, hip-hop community.
Following the end of Junglepussy’s set, Earl Sweatshirt took the stage at exactly 8:59 PM. Submerged in purple light, Earl and his DJ/hype man greeted the audience with the low, brooding 808 bass drum and the sinister, growling synth of “Pre”; the first track off of Earl’s 2013 debut studio album Doris. He then proceeded to play several more songs off of Doris. Some highlights included an excellent performance of the aggressive and fiery “20 Wave Caps” (which surprisingly included a rendition of Domo Genesis’ guest verse), a brief foray into the somber and introspective fan favorite “Sunday”, as well as an exuberant sing along to the hook of “Molasses.”
After about 15 minutes, Earl seemed relieved to conclude the “Doris section” of the show and subsequently announced to the audience that he’ll be performing songs off of his newest full-length album I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside: An Album by Earl Sweatshirt. Released in March of 2015, I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside expanded on the personal and melancholic nature of Doris and encompassed deeply emotional depictions of depression, grief, substance abuse, and isolation. The album also showcased Earl’s growing talent as a producer, with his gloomy, minimalistic instrumentals dominating the album.
The intensity of revisiting songs from I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside in a live environment resulted in a noticeable change in Earl’s on-stage demeanor. The clearest example lies in his performance of “Faucet”, one of the most intimate and revealing tracks on the album. With a voice drenched in emotion, Earl painted an vivid portrait of alienation and and loneliness over the song’s sparse and lo-fi instrumental. His solemn facial expressions and body language sharply contrasted with the smiles and rhythmic head nods of the audience.
The chronological order of the album’s performance was interrupted by his first ever live rendition of “Mirror”, a collaborative track with producer Samiyam. Earl’s pairing of “Faucet” and “Mirror” in the show’s set list was a brilliant choice because both songs address his mother’s controversial and highly publicized decision to send him to Coral Reef Academy, a boarding school for at risk youth located in Samoa, when he was 16 years old. This decision put an enormous strain on their relationship and, in an NPR, interview Earl said that “Faucet” was meant to depict the tensions between the two of them before he was sent to Samoa. By putting “Mirror” (a song that documents his return to the United States following his 18th birthday) after “Faucet”, Earl was able to effectively exemplify his meticulous attention to detail when organizing concerts.
Despite the heavy themes radiating throughout the concert, Earl was certainly not without a sense of humor. This became apparent when he interrupted “Grief”, a heartbreaking account of substance abuse and deteriorating mental health, in order to address two audience members engaging in a physical confrontation. After stopping the song, Earl pointed to the audience members and said “everybody good, nobody’s getting there ass whooped in here. These songs are way to slow for all that”. Later in the show he also got the entire crowd to sing “Happy Birthday” by Stevie Wonder to an audience member who was celebrating their 19th birthday.
Earl concluded his show by playing more obscure songs in his catalog, such as “Quest/Power” which is another collaboration with Samiyam (and another producer named Budgie). He also made sure to perform the tracks “Hell” and “(I be) Outside”, which are both unreleased tracks exclusively used for live performances. Before calling it a night after an hour long set, Earl had his DJ blast a Rae Sremmurd instrumental and, with amusement, watched members of the audience engage in an enormous, boisterous, and sweaty mosh pit. Given everything he’s been through, it was wonderful to see Earl Sweatshirt end the show with a smile on his face.